NFL Fantasy Wide Receivers

As your draft approaches, we break down the top fantasy wide receivers in the NFL.

ELITE

Randy MossOakland Raiders

Despite how the Raiders finish this season, one thing is certain. Kerry Collins will hook up with Randy Moss early and often. Moss shows up in Oakland with something to prove. He is perhaps the NFL's most talented player, has an axe to grind, and is in a near perfect situation. Al Davis, Moss, and Collins may look to throw long on every Raiders' drive. Only two things have ever been necessary for Moss to succeed…willingness to throw the deep ball and motivation. With Oakland, he has both. Darth Raider and the rest of the Oakland fanatics may have Moss performing every Sunday like he's on Monday Night Football with everyone watching. RB Lamont Jordan (picked up from the Jets this off-season) should help Moss and the Raiders. Moss will put up huge numbers as he returns to 2003 form.
2004 Stats         Rcptns-49    Rec yds–767    TDs–13

Terrell OwensPhiladelphia Eagles

Terrell Owens is the Babe Ruth of the NFL. Don't believe it? Take a look back at Owens' first play from scrimmage in preseason game 3 against the Bengals. Not only did Owens call the 64 yard touchdown pass from McNabb, but he went on to catch another four passes for a total of 135 yards in limited playing time. Terrell claims he is paid only to play football. And, his recent riff with Reid, McNabb, Eagles' ownership and countless NFL fans has proven his off-field antics have yet to have an effect on his on-field performance. Owens has the perfect body for an NFL wide receiver and has a workout regiment equal to none. Expect Owens to lead the Eagles and your fantasy team back to the playoffs provided you are fortunate enough to land him. However, Owens, McNabb, and Westbrook may actually be too good! Philly locked up home field advantage by week 14 last season, with many fantasy owners watching dumbfounded as their fantasy stars rode the pine during the heart of their fantasy football playoffs.
2004 Stats         Rcptns-77    Rec yds–1200    TDs-14

Torry HoltSt. Louis Rams

Holt had a bit of a fall-off from 2003 to 2004, but continues to be the most featured wide receiver in the Rams' pass heavy offense. Holt caught over 90 passes for the third straight year, finishing with nine games of over 90 yards or better. Holt comes in to 2005 leading the league in yards per game over the past few years with no signs of slowing down. Holt should benefit from the Rams' weak schedule this year with Steven Jackson taking over primary RB duties. The Rams threw for over 4600 yards last season and have everything in place to get their offense back on track. Holt will benefit and is a fine candidate to catch near 100 balls for over 1500 yards. Look for a slight increase in TD numbers as the Rams look for him a bit more in the red zone.
2004 Stats         Rcptns-94    Rec yds–1372    TDs–10

Marvin HarrisonIndianapolis Colts

Many question which Indianapolis receiver is the one to draft, but forget that Harrison caught 15 touchdowns last year. With Manning throwing 49 of them, there are plenty to go around. Don't let the existence of Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley (who will still get theirs) skew your thinking. Again, Harrison caught 15 TDs last year, 2nd only to Muhsin Muhammad (who stands no chance of repeating the feat with the Bears). At 33, "Marvelous Marvin" has the same explosiveness and elusiveness of years past and will again be a favorite target of Peyton Manning. Manning and the Colts' offense will again gallop to a record TD pace. Draft Harrison early and enjoy the ride!
2004 Stats         Rcptns-86    Rec yds–1113    TDs–15

Javon WalkerGreen Bay Packers

Speculation is that this may be Brett Favre's last year. Don't expect him to go out by handing the ball off to Ahman Green. Favre likes to throw touchdowns and Walker is his favorite target. Walker decided he wasn't taking any time off between 2003 and 2004, subsequently working extremely hard in the off-season. Javon's extensive work paid dividends last year with huge numbers. So much that he demanded a Pro-Bowl like contract to go with his Pro-Bowl season. Walker eventually made it to camp and seems ready to put his 6'3" frame to work. Don't let him slip too far before drafting him as your top receiver.
2004  Stats         Rcptns–89    Rec yds-1382    TDs–12

Chad JohnsonCincinnati Bengals

Johnson plays much larger than his 6'-1" 192lb frame and could easily perform to be in the top three of WRs this season. In fact, the only reason we don't have him higher is that he has yet to be the big time producer we know he can be. Carson Palmer has another year behind him and is expected to have a bust out year. Ninety-five receptions last year indicate that Palmer really likes to groove his passes Johnson's direction, and we expect 2005 to be no different. If the Bengals, Palmer, and Chad Johnson have the year they are capable of, look for Johnson to be at the top of our WR rankings next year.
2004 Stats         Rcptns-95    Rec yds–1274    TDs–9


BIG TIME PLAYMAKERS

Joe HornNew Orleans Saints

Joe Horn is perhaps the most challenging wide receiver to evaluate going in to 2005. Although he had career numbers last season, Saints' coach Jim Haslett wants to focus more on Deuce McAllister and the running game (as was evident in the final four games of last year). We expect that Horn may not have the 94 receptions he had in 2004, but the opportunities in the passing game may open up with the increased use of McAllister. Only three of Horn's eleven TDs went for more than 25 yards last season. Donte Stallworth's eventual grasp for the game and the increased running threat should mean fewer, but more effective strikes for Horn.
2004 Stats         Rcptns-94    Rec yds-1399    TDs–11

Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts

Some think that Wayne outperformed Harrison last season (see Harrison above). We don't. Take nothing from Wayne (we still have him in our top ten), but Manning's ability to find the open receiver and throw 49 touchdowns in 15 games means great things for all involved. Wayne does have the size, talent, and runs precise routes. 2005 is most likely Wayne's last year in Indy prior to signing for big bucks with another team next year, which may actually be a slight motivator. Even though technically a number two on the Colts' depth chart, Wayne is a top fantasy receiver if you can get him. Don't be totally surprised if the Colts again approach 50 touchdowns and Wayne gets his share of 12-15 TDs and over 1300 yds.
2004 Stats         Rcptns-77    Rec yds–1210    TDs-12

Hines WardPittsburgh Steelers

Hines Ward had only four catches for touchdowns last season (one rushing). The loss of Plaxico Burress, with whom the Steelers didn't even negotiate, should help Ward come closer to the numbers he had in 2003. Burress' large frame was often used more as a red zone target than the more dependable Ward. In addition, part of the problem with Ward's statistical decline last season was Pittsburgh's remarkable ability to run the football (almost 2500 team yards). Running back Jerome Bettis looked like the Bettis of old with 13 TDs. There is no way Pittsburgh repeats their ground success of last year and will look to develop their passing game with another year under Ben Roethlisberger. Even with a bit of a strange 2004, Ward still had over a third of his team's receptions with 80. He will again be the ‘go to' player in the passing game this year and will be utilized much more in the red zone. Expect Ward's TD numbers to more than double from '04.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–80    Rec yds-1004    TDs-5

Andre JohnsonHouston Texans

Andre Johnson is Terrell Owens without the pomp and circumstance. He's 6'3" and around 220lbs with raw natural talent, but faster and younger than Owens. Johnson had a great sophomore season last year on his way to his first Pro Bowl. Domanick Davis and another year under David Carr's belt should help, but Carr and the Houston offense aren't exactly keeping defenses honest. The Texans plan to line Johnson up in a variety of schemes to confuse defenses, which should help somewhat. But, Houston doesn't have a true number two WR to keep defenses from double teaming Johnson on every play. Andre has the skills to be a top five receiver on another team. And although the Texans are improving, we can't move him up higher on our list until Carr and the Texan's offense are a bit more proven.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–79    Rec yds-1142    TDs-6

Darrell JacksonSeattle Seahawks

Seattle is unsure who will develop into their number two receiver, but one thing is certain…Jackson is their number one. Darrell Jackson isn't known for his raw skills, but he does have the game figured out and is locked in with Matt Hasselbeck. The presence of stud running back Shaun Alexander on the Seahawks draws significant pressure from Seattle's passing game. Jackson only caught seven TDs last year (down from nine in 2003), but caught them from all over the field. Expect Jackson's numbers to increase a bit this season with the departure of Koren Robinson and the oft contagious dropped passes. Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks let more than one game slip last year. Better focus and Seattle's less than average defense will mean more opportunities for Jackson and the Seattle receiving corps in 2005.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–87    Rec yds-1199    TDs–7


SOLID

Michael ClaytonTampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie Michael Clayton flew well under the radar of most fantasy owners (esp. after landing in Tampa Bay) in 2004, but don't expect many owners to pass on him this season. Jon Gruden's pass friendly offensive scheme helped make Clayton's baptism to the National Football League a great one with 80 receptions and nearly 1200 yards. Clayton may have decent height at 6'4", but it was his ability to instantly adapt to the NFL that made him have one of the all-time best rookie WR seasons. This year should mean even better numbers for Clayton in his sophomore season as he and Griese hook up a bit more in the red zone. Be sure to grab Clayton as one of the top 15 WRs and leave other fantasy owners behind as they continue to deny achievements by the Buccaneer offense.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–80    Rec yds-1193    TDs-7

Steve SmithCarolina Panthers

Smith broke out in 2003 to catch 88 passes for over 1100 yards in 11 starts. Destined to be a top receiver in 2004, Smith fractured his leg in the opening game. Smith is small at 5'9", but proven on the field (esp. after the catch). Quarterback Jake Delhomme likes to air it out and will find Smith this season with considerable accuracy. Smith's leg injury is behind him and he should match or increase his performance posted in '03.
2004 Stats        N/A (fractured leg game 1)

Roy WilliamsDetroit Lions

Detroit has perhaps the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL. The problem is that only Roy Williams played last season. Charles Rogers suffered his 2nd season ending collarbone fracture in two years, while big Mike Williams is a rookie this season. Roy Williams is extremely talented. We would have Roy much higher on our board, but contrary to the situation in Indianapolis there will not be 49 touchdown passes to spread around. Quarterback Joey Harrington has looked good this pre-season, but looked anything but decent the past couple of years. Much in Detroit depends upon Harrington's ability to connect and harvest the talent from his young wide receivers. We're betting that Roy Williams will be the more significant fantasy threat, but he will likely have to share much of the load. Charles Rogers has Randy Moss type talent, but must prove he can stay on the field.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–54    Rec yds-817    TDs-8

Anquan BoldinArizona Cardinals

As a rookie in 2003 with the lowly Cardinals, Boldin was able to pull in 101 receptions and almost 1400 yards. Last year's pre-season knee injury forced him out of the first six games of the regular season. Arizona has a new quarterback this season in former MVP Kurt Warner. Dennis Green believes that Warner is the answer to the Cardinal's passing game. Some consider sophomore Larry Fitzgerald to be a better receiver than Boldin. We're not going to argue Fitz vs. Boldin here, but Fitzgerald will definitely take some of the pressure off Boldin while also stealing some of the red zone touchdowns. Boldin returned back to his '03 form toward the end of last season with two 100 yard games in December. Boldin is a decent fantasy pick as a number two receiver this year.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–56    Rec yds-623    TDs–1

Drew BennettTennessee Titans

When Billy Volek took over for Steve McNair, it looked as if Volek and Drew Bennett were thinking with the same brain. In eight games, Bennett caught ten TDs and averaged over 100 yards per game from the hand of Volek. Bennett looked like an absolute highlight reel with Volek, but never seemed to have it with McNair. Derrick Mason's departure to Baltimore means Bennett is now number one WR in Tennessee…and McNair is back at quarterback. We don't expect to see the same Drew Bennett we saw in the eight games with Volek last season, but believe he is still worthy of a top 15 selection. As an added bonus, Bennett (an ex collegiate QB) threw one TD last year. Even with a different QB and the lack of a strong number two WR on the other side, we can't ignore Bennett's brilliant performances last season.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–80    Rec yds-1247    TDs-11

Nate BurlesonMinnesota Vikings

Randy Moss is gone. Burleson should really be a number two receiver, but slides in to an ideal situation by default. Duante Culpepper is one of the league's best quarterbacks. We'll take his number one receiver in a fantasy lineup any day. Travis Taylor was never heralded while at Baltimore, but was likely a victim of the Ravens' system. Taylor has had an excellent pre-season and should earn the number two slot in Minnesota to take some pressure off of Burleson. Most fantasy owners don't realize that Burleson had a 1000 yard season with nine TDs in 2004. He may never post Moss type numbers, but he does deserve a spot on any fantasy team if he can put up similar numbers to last season…which he should have no problem exceeding.
2004 Stats         Rcptns–68    Rec yds-1006    TDs-9


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